Posts Tagged ‘Natalie Bradbury’

Yesterday David and I made a pilgrimage to Rochdale in order to watch our friend Natalie Bradbury contribute a guest lecture to a series of talks at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.

I had suggested we get the bus, but Transport For Greater Manchester’s journey planner was sulking when I tried to look the buses up, and Trainline revealed fares for under £10 so we got the train from Victoria instead.

Rochdale came as a bit of a shock to us upon our arrival. The powers that be are in the process of installing tramlines for the Metrolink, so a lot of the roads from the train station (and neighbouring metrolink station) through the town centre are barricaded up while the lines are layed, making an already slightly daunting prospect of finding our way over to the museum somewhat more difficult. It was also colder than it had  been in Manchester, and it’s not often we get to say that…

After a somewhat bleak and vaguely surreal trek through the town centre and out the other side to Toad Lane, where the museum is, we grabbed a much needed cup of tea before sitting down to hear Natalie’s talk.

Titled ‘Woman’s Outlook: 1919 – 1967: A surprisingly modern magazine?’, Natalie’s talk was unusual in structure in that she doesn’t get on with Powerpoint and, what with being a trained journalist, she instead made a magazine, provided paper copies of it to the audience, and used a digital version of the magazine instead of Powerpoint to structure her talk.

Woman’s Outlook was a magazine for co-operative women, published by the Co-Operative Press. Natalie describes it as having “mixed the political and the domestic”

As Natalie says in her summary, the magazine took “an often daring political stance on hot topics of the day” and appeared “ahead of its time on issues such as abortion, equal pay and divorce law” but “many of the subjects covered by Outlook would not appear out of place in a women’s magazine today.”

As Natalie explained in her talk, she grew up reading the music press, then newspapers, so she never read the girls and womens press while she was growing up. The only women’s magazine she reads now is Stylist “because it’s free” and it was interesting, and very revealing, so see a comparison of stories in Woman’s Outlook and Stylist: There are more similarities in subject matter than you might think.

Natalie took the audience on a journey from the magazine’s beginnings in the ‘Women’s Corner’ in the Co-operative News in the late nineteenth century to the founding of the Co-operative Women’s Guild, to the founding of Woman’s Outlook at the end of the First World War.

Natalie talked of some of those involved with the paper, including notable editors, columnists and contributers, and discussed the prejudice they faced. Editor Mary Stott had wanted to cover ‘hard news’ in her journalistic career, but instead found herself consigned to ‘women’s issues’, which were taken less seriously. Her 1973 memoir Forgetting’s No Excuse was a touchstone for Natalie in her research, as were interviews she conducted with some of the surviving members of the Co-operative Women’s Guild, Pat Williams and Margaret Tillotson.

Natalie is an enthusiastic speaker, and her interest in the subject and her research really came across as she spoke. It made me want to find out more about the Co-operative Women’s Guild and Woman’s Outlook.

After the talk, David and I headed back to the train station as it was getting a bit late and we needed to find some food.

As we wearily tried to remember our way back through the dark, empty barricaded streets we spotted a sign that stated encouragingly ‘Rochdale: Open as usual’ but even that didn’t console us much in the misery of the cold. David remarked that he hadn’t felt this cold since he visited his ex boyfriend in Berlin a few winters back, whereas I fervently wished I’d put more layers on. We both felt flasks of soup and sandwiches would be a good idea next time. Either that, or we will have to wait until the mythical summer arrives before venturing this way again.

It wasn’t much better once we got back to Manchester, as the storm was drawing in, but it still felt a couple of degrees warmer at least. On our way back to Piccadilly to catch our buses home we walked past the old Co-Operative building, providing a neat ending to the evenings adventure.

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The Shrieking Violet

The Shrieking Violet is a perfect example of everything that is good about Manchester. So it was with a great deal of sadness that I heard that editor Natalie Bradbury might not be continuing her zine for much longer.

Natalie recently contributed an article on the history of the little known white poppy, the pacifist alternative to the more well known red poppy, to the Working Class Movement Library’s blog. You can read her article  here.

In the light of these recent developments, I decided that an invitation to interview Natalie was long overdue.

When did you start the Shrieking Violet and why?

 The Shrieking Violet started in summer 2009 – the first issue came out on August 1 of that year. At the time I had been unemployed for several months after finishing an NCTJ course in newspaper journalism, and I was struggling to even get work experience at local newspapers as there were widespread redundancies at that time – it was a very bad time to try and get into newspaper journalism! I was becoming increasingly frustrated and disillusioned, but decided to put some of the skills I’d learnt during my course, such as page layout, to good use, and to turn being unemployed to my advantage and use that time to do something productive.

 I was also doing a lot of writing on my blog, also called the Shrieking Violet, at the time. When I started it I never thought that anyone might read it, but as more people started reading it I became frustrated by the limitations of the blog format and wanted to make a finished product that came off the screen and involved more people, and could be picked up physically by different people who might not necessarily know about my blog.

Why did you choose to do both an online version and a paper version? How was the paper copy distributed?

I’ve always been too lazy to lay out my zine by hand and cut and paste text and pictures in the traditional way. From the start I designed Shrieking Violet digitally using a design package, then created a PDF which I printed and took to a 2p photocopier shop to reproduce. As I had already made a PDF, it seemed logical to put it online for people to download and print themselves at home if they wished (or just read it on the screen if they preferred). A friend later told me about the PDF hosting site Issuu, which enablea readers to flick though the pages of a PDF online as they would a magazine. 

I made between 50 and 70 free paper copies of each issue, which is a tiny number really – especially when you consider that online views on Issuu stand at around 2,000 for each edition! Nevertheless, I think it’s important that there is a choice of either reading online or on paper. I advertise each issue on my blog, with links to both the download version and a list of places where a paper copy can be picked up; typically cafes, bars and other creative and social spaces around Manchester city centre. On my blog, I also invite people to email me if they want me to send them a copy in the post.

Are fanzines about places more common these days do you think? (as opposed to fanzines about music, or football) 

There are a lot of magazines and fanzines which seem concerned with urbanism, architecture and cities these days, and topics related to these such as regeneration and the creative economy, whether they are based in Sheffield or Liverpool, Manchester or London. Something I have noticed is that there are a lot of zines made by collectives – for example, people on the same course at university, or a group of graduates who have studied together and have that geographical location in common. Naturally, they look to what’s around them for inspiration. There are still a lot of music zines/self-published music magazines around. Football zines I know less about – although I have read FC United of Manchester’s fanzine, which is quite political and is not actually that football (or even Manchester)-orientated!

A collage of Shrieking Violet’s

What inspired the Zinefests at Victoria Baths?

The first zine fair I ever want to was at Urbis in Manchester in August 2008. As well as having stalls, I remember that Bob Dickinson did a talk about making a radio documentary about zines, presented by Jarvis Cocker, and there was a ‘psychogeography’ walk around the area led by the Loiterers Resistance Movement.

I volunteered at Victoria Baths for a while on the oral history stall. One day I was sitting in the cafe folding piles of copies of the Shrieking Violet and Alison Kershaw, the arts co-ordinator at Victoria Baths, suggested running a zine fair in the space; so the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention was born. It’s a brilliant space to work in. I was keen that the event should be far more than just a market for buying and selling, and offer activities that anyone could get involved in. I loved being able to draw on the history of the building and the wealth of resources in the Victoria Baths archive, which encompasses pictures and objects relating to the building’s history as well as thousands of donated memories, to encourage people to make their own swimming-inspired zines on the day. On the day of the Fanzine Convention, Future Everything had a Maker faire in the main sports hall below, so Fanzine Convention stallholders spread out around the balcony of that space, looking over the technological contraptions at the fair below. Smaller rooms upstairs, comprising the flat where Victoria Baths’ superintendent used to live, just off the balcony space, were perfect for fanzine talks, film screenings and workshops.
Could you write a little about the Manchester Modernist Society and their heroines project?
The Manchester’s Modernist Heroines project was a collaboration between the Shrieking Violet, Manchester Modernist Society and the Loiterers Resistance Movement which took place in March 2011. It celebrated ten overlooked women in fields ranging from architecture to aviation via art, psychology, archaeology, family planning and journalism. We placed a call out for modern-day women to produce responses to each of the ten women, which formed the basis of a publication, compiled by myself, and walks around Manchester led by the Loiterers Resistance Movement. The responses were received in the form of articles, poetry, images and concepts for performances.

Manchester has a long history of feminist activism, but many of its key figures are now forgotten, who are your favourites and why?

It’s not specifically a Manchester organisation, as there were and continue to be branches all over the country, but I am really interested in the Co-operative Women’s Guild, a campaigning organisation which was founded in 1883 to provide education to its members, primarily working class women, and give them more of a voice both in co-operative societies and within society. Manchester has a long association with the co-operative movement, and I have been researching a co-operative women’s journal called Woman’s Outlook which was published by the Manchester-based Co-operative Press between 1919 and 1967. Outlook was a curious mixture of the domestic and the political, recognising the importance of both to women’s lives; it urged its readers to get involved in political campaigns, for example for women’s representation in parliament, equal pay and peace and disarmament, but also provided practical advice such as recipes, dress-making patterns and child-rearing tips. I will be doing a talk at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum on Thursday 21 March 2013 entitled ‘Woman’s Outlook: a surprisingly modern magazine?’.

As a journalist, one of my favourite women in Manchester’s history is Mary Stott (one of our Modernist Heroines). She edited several co-operative publications over the years, including Woman’s Outlook, before she became editor of the Guardian’s woman page, for which she is best known. As editor of both Woman’s Outlook and the Guardian woman’s page, Stott really involved women in the publications, encouraging them to write in and share their stories. Whilst Stott was initially reluctant to solely focus on women’s issues, preferring to be taken seriously as a journalist who could tackle hard news just as well as men, she succeeded in creating a ‘community of readers’ and ensuring content reflected their lives and what was important to them. Stott’s autobiography, Forgetting’s No Excuse, is well worth a read.

Why do you think Manchester has such a historical culture of feminist activism?

Manchester is often called the ‘first modern city’, reflecting its rapid industralisation and expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. This new way of living and working created rampant inequalities, with a huge gulf between the richest in society – those with power – and the rest, the working classes, who laboured in terrible conditions to make the few rich. A lot of the historic feminist activist figures I have come across were concerned with addressing some of these inequalities on a practical level by improving people’s living conditions, and empowering them by offering access to education. Women were already fired by with the injustice of what they saw around them, and also realised the powerlessness of their own situation in society – being unable to vote, to own property, to work, etc, and wanted to do something about it, to be able to make a difference. If you want to know more, I highly recommend making contact with Manchester historian Michael Herbert, and going on one of his Women’s History walks around Manchester, which covers women active in the suffrage, socialist, trade union and co-operative movements. He has also just written a book called Up Then, Brave Women.

What do you think the legacy of that activism is?

Feminism is, of course, still highly relevant today, and there are still battles to be fought not just over women’s status and their value in society but how women are perceived socially and culturally. I’m inspired by the ongoing work of a new generation of feminists in Manchester, from groups like the Riveters at Manchester University who work to raise awareness of issues affecting women within the university, the city and in society in creative, inclusive and engaging ways, to other collectives such as Manchester Women’s Design Group, who do interesting work around women and the city, for example by exploring women’s emotional relationships with different public spaces in Manchester.

How would you describe the relationship between Manchester and Salford?

Manchester and Salford are two neighbouring cities, separated by the River Irwell. To me they are quite different in that, whilst Manchester is quite compact as a city and has a clearly defined centre with all the facilities and attractions you’d expect, I think of Salford as being more as a collection of smaller towns and villages (each with their own attractions – see the awe-inspiring Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Aqueduct, canal-side folly Monton lighthouse, Eccles Wurlitzer museum, the bright orange Bridgewater Canal at Worsley, Clifton Country Park, etc!) than a city in itself, as it has no real focal point. There are several really great places just over the Salford border, within easy walking distance of Manchester city centre – alternative arts and music complex Islington Mill, Salford Art Gallery/Peel Park, the amazing social/people’s history resources in the Working Class Movement Library, Salford University and the Medieval magnificence of Ordsall Hall – but as a whole I think it’s a bit underexplored by Mancunians. Salford Quays, now home to BBC North as well as the Lowry theatre and arts centre and Imperial War Museum North, is a bit further out, but within reach of Manchester by tram and bus. The Quays is also doing its bit to attract people into Salford, but I very rarely go there as to me it feels like a bit of an island with a strange atmosphere, detached from the rest of the city – it is, let’s face it, perfectly possible to get the tram in and out of Salford Quays without registering that it is surrounded by some of Britain’s most deprived communities.
What are you planning to do next?

I’m going back to university in the New Year, so I’ll be a student again, which is both exciting and scary so I’ll have to see what that new challenges and experiences that throws up … !

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Yesterday was the second Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention, and Too Late For Cake had a small slice of the action.

Victoria Baths, all hail

Yes, I went paper for the day in collaboration with friend of the cake, David Wilkinson. Paper copies of the Stockport special edition of Too Late For Cake are still available, and right now we’re trying to decide what to do with them. If you’d like a copy, please post a comment below and include your email, and I will get in touch with you.

I arrived not long after the event started at 10:30am and, as is the case with all zine events I’ve been to, the first hour or so tends to serve as time for people to look at the stalls and exhibitions, and generally orient themselves and find out where the food and loos are. I managed to find the stalls, including Manchester Municipal Design Corporation who were selling our previously mentioned publication, but I couldn’t find David or convention organiser Natalie Bradbury.

Future Everything had stalls, installations and exhibitions downstairs at the baths, and I watched somewhat bemused as a young woman tenaciously attended and adjusted a wooden bobbin device on the floor. It was attached to a long thread of wool which was trailing down from some slowly unravelling crochet, which was itself suspended from the ceiling. I believe the idea was that it would start to unravel at the start of the day, and just be finished unravelling at the end of the day.

I went in search of the loos and café after that, and observed a rather puzzled group of girls trying to negotiate breakfast in the café only to discover that soup, cake, sarnies, crisps, biscuits, tea and coffee were what was on offer instead.

I instantly warmed to the café because they served the tea out of a teapot into polythene cups, and they got you to add your own milk and sugar. Also the teapot was wearing a tea cosy. I had bourbons and tea and texted David and Natalie.

I had a brief hello chat with Natalie a little while later in the café, and caught up with David by the MMDC stall, where the paper edition of Too Late For Cake had been installed. I also had a rather excellent vegan whoopie pie (like a french macaroon but Americanised) from the vegan cake stall. David was good enough to point out that heavy work with a tissue was required afterwards.

Stall holding

We lurked by MMDC for quite a bit, then David went for a wander and I went off to watch Salford Zine Library’s film Self Publishers of the world take over. I found it really interesting as there were a lot of mancunian and salfordian zine makers in there, including MMDC, Natalie, and some I didn’t recognise. It was interesting to hear people talk about their work and how they write and produce, the mechanics of it, as well as why. The Q&A was interesting as well, as I didn’t know a massive amount about the library.

I missed quite a bit of Rotheram Zine Library’s talk because I was in the café thoroughly enjoying a veg pie with pickled beetroot and pickled cabbage, plus more tea. There were mushy peas on offer, but I didn’t fancy them. In a city that seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the Pannini, it is refreshing to encounter proper warm, filling, nutritious food of the kind your mum used to feed you. And it was homemade pastry.

I had a similar regional good food experience when I was a student at Bolton and, on bonfire night, was introduced to culinery bliss in the form of black peas with salt’n’vinegar.

Fanzine making workshop and lovely stained glass

After I’d scarfed down my scran, I went back to the superintendents office where the film and talks were being held, and caught the remainder of Rotheram Zine Library’s talk. I think I may have missed the crucial bits, but I did enjoy hearing about their new projects, which revolve around ‘found’ content. There is one in which they’ve taken random nonsensical bits of footbal commentary and turned them into an epic poem, another about badly tagged clips on Youtube that people have uploaded of themselves, often singing, and another of re-constructed impressions from old photo development equipment.

It sounded as though Youtube was a real source of fascination, particularly the discussions that take place beneath clips, or used to until Youtube changed the format. Me and David talked to them afterwards and they seemed really nice. David did a zine swap later.

The next talk was David’s, and our friend Clare and David’s mum and dad arrived, also Dave Haslem. After David had soundchecked his music for his talk, and got his slides ready, he nipped out and I caught up with Clare and then had a bit of a chat with Dave Haslem, who confessed he had spent an impressive amount on fanzines, including Too Late For Cake.

David did a very good job on legendary Manchester fanzine City Fun, he made it very irreverent and funny, which is appropriate. He also kicked off his talk with a Ludus song, which was a fine idea. I learnt quite a few things I hadn’t known before (I have started the City Fun odyssey at the WCML, but I haven’t even reached the halfway point yet…) which is always good.

Some of the crowd who’d come for David’s talk stayed to watch mine, and just before my talk Making a noise: an express ride through the world of punk and riot grrrl fanzines and the UK feminist underground, 1977-2012 I had a very interesting conversation with a PHD student in the front row who had read the interview I did with Natalie via email for For Books Sake, about riot grrrl.

The talk itself was a bit of a blur. It felt as though it was descending into the chaos and that I had to keep wresting it from the jaws of disaster, but the feedback I got from people seemed to suggest otherwise: They couldn’t understand why I felt it had gone badly. And they seemed to enjoy it. I was particularly thankful for David’s dad, who laughed heartily at all the crucial bits. I even got some unexpected laughs: the idea of a 2nd generation RG zine from Wilmslow amused people no end.

I really liked the glass floor in this corridor

Anyway, I got through it, the slides seemed very effective, and people said they’d enjoyed it so all is well. Major speech trauma over, I can move on now.

Afterwards I chatted with Clare, David, his mum and dad and a couple of other people, many of whom I didn’t know. We drifted back to the stalls before packing up time. Almost all the vegan food had gone, and some of the stalls were packing up.

We sold just under half of the Too Late For Cake’s which, for a fanzine exclusively about Stockport, isn’t bad. We gave £3 to MMDC, who’d also done well, for subletting their stall to us. Clare bought a copy and she and I got embroiled in a very long but fascinating conversation with a bloke called Richard who does a zine, is one half of the duo who do Under the pavement on the Manchester online radio network, and who used to live in Bradford in the nineties. He said he’d really enjoyed the talk, but how weird it had felt to hear me talk about people he’d known then in Bradford. I did quite a bit on the Leeds and Bradford Riot Grrrls, and he’d known Sarah Bag, Lianne Hall and Jane Shag Stamp. He was telling us about the RG club night Frocks’N’Docs at the 1 in 12 club, where the men had to wear dresses to get in. Apparently there was some trouble with skinheads on one occasion, and a surreal punch up between skinheads and weedy punk blokes in drag. One of his male friends also had the surreal experience of a trip to A&E in a silver dress after walking into a lamp post while walking through Bradford. I miss seeing cross dressed men at gigs, there used to be quite a few around in the mid – late ’90s, especially in London and Leeds.

After we’d settled up, me, Clare and David wandered down Hathersage Road to Oxford Road, chatting. Upon reaching Oxford Road we all decided we wanted to go home and eat something, so said our goodbyes. I headed back the way we’d just walked, then walked down Plymouth Grove to Longsight.

In Longsight, a spirited (in both senses of the word) preacher was doing catechism via a microphone and PA system outside the bookies. Not sure which religion he was endorsing, but Pakistan got an emotional mention, which might narrow it down a bit possibly. Then again, maybe not.

I got home feeling very stimulated, content, happy but exhausted.

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